Wind buffeted the American flag that hung at half mast Monday at Pasco’s Columbia Memorial Gardens, as well as the small flags that graced individual grave markers and crypts.
“We are here to salute our warriors,” Joe Winters, commander of American Legion Post 34, told about 100 Tri-Citians.
Across the Mid-Columbia, residents gathered at Memorial Day services to remember and honor those who have died serving the United States.
Staff Sgt. Ulysses Wallace, the Central Washington area coordinator for Washington Honor Guard, said for many, Memorial Day has become simply a three-day weekend to kick off summer.
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It’s lost the significance that it should have as a remembrance for the more than 1 million Americans who have given their lives for this country and the freedom that it represents, Wallace said.
It’s important to remember that women have sacrificed themselves too, said Ken Vails, chaplain for Post 34. He recalled how four nurses were shot and killed during the Vietnam War as they tried to protect their patients.
And during World War II, women who chose to become nurses were captured, raped, beaten and in some cases killed, he said.
Bob Wiggins of Pasco, who served on the honor guard, agreed with Wallace, saying that for many, Memorial Day has become a time for camping.
“It’s here to remember our fallen and the vets,” he said.
After the service, Wiggins headed to visit the grave of his father, Grady Wiggins Sr., who served in World War II and Korea. Many of his family members have served, and Wiggins himself served during the Vietnam War as an Air Force cook stateside, he said.
During the ceremony, members of Post 34 brought the flag to the bottom of the flagpole, slowly raised it all the way up, and then lowered it again to half mast.
Nine wreaths of red, white and blue were saluted to honor those who have served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, as well as prisoners of war and those who were missing in action, the American Legion, and Gold Star mothers who lost their children.